Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sands Hall

“Catching Heaven is a rich and vibrant novel that captures the ever-changing landscape of family and those who define it.”
—Ballantine Books, Reader’s Circle

Have you ever felt like no matter how hard you work, the pay off isn’t nearly as glamorous or lucrative as you had once hoped? Has an ex-lover ever made you feel annoyed and attracted at the same time? Have you ever wondered what it feels like to come from an “ordinary” family because the one you have just doesn’t fit the mold?

Then you will love Sands Hall’s debut novel, Catching Heaven, as much as I did.

When forty-something Maud Maxwell rejoins her younger sister, Lizzie, in Marengo, New Mexico, she exchanges her stalled Hollywood acting career and spineless boyfriend, for a job playing the piano at the Red Garter in small town USA.

Like most sisters, these two each have reasons to be envious of each other: Maud longs for the bond Lizzie shares with her children and Maud’s freedom to pursue acting reminds Lizzie of her own shelved dreams. Lizzie, a painter, once hoped to make art in Paris, but instead supports her three children by working for a greeting card company.

New York Times Reviewer Kimberly Marlowe writes, “Sands Hall's first novel deftly reveals the push and pull between two sisters who love each other dearly, but who face new tensions when their lives collide in midcourse.”

These tensions are complicated when handsome Jake Arbole, the father of one of Lizzie’s children, returns to Marengo. Jake and Maud’s friendship prompts an uncomfortable reckoning between the sisters that captures the essence of family, but also sheds light on the inevitable heartbreak that accompanies individual hopes and dreams.

Added to this mix is a whole cast of quirky characters who interact so naturally in this small town setting that when the book was over I was sad to leave Lizzie and Maud and I was also sad to leave Marengo. In looking back, I realize now that Catching Heaven not only conveyed the community of a small town, but also brought me inside the open door of the Maxwell family—an extended, openly flawed, and truly loving family— which was a comforting place to be. Catching Heaven is a book that will come back to time and time again.

SANDS HALL has recently published stories in the Iowa Review and Green Mountains Review. Her work as a playwright includes a stage adaptation of Alcott’s Little Women and the comic drama Fair Use. She is also the author of a book of writing essays and exercises, Tools of the Writer’s Craft, and has an essay in the anthology Writers Workshop in a Book. Sands is currently Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Please visit: www.sandshall.com

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For these reasons I thought it would be fun to try our hand at a SVCW Books and Authors blog. I will track down our authors and past participants and post their books, news, reviews and information and link our SVCW books to Amazon. Ten percent of every book purchased through our blog will help support the bookstore. I am looking forward to building an online archive of the outstanding collection of books represented by authors who frequent the Community of Writers.

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